Carrageenan stabilizes and thickens many different foods and beverages, including ice cream. However, it is soon to be banned from organic products, so they will need to be reformulated. Image Credit: Flickr user Jessica Merz
As more customers buy all-natural foods and beverages, the USDA’s certified-organic designation is a key selling point for many products. But a recent decision by the Natural Organic Standards Board (NOSB) threatens to take all carrageenan-containing products off the all-natural market unless they are reformulated. Even though the scientific evidence that carrageenan is associated with health problems is disputed, the NOSB voted at the end of 2016 to change federal regulations on certified organic foods to eliminate carrageenan as an acceptable additive.1
Carrageenan, derived from red seaweed, is used as a thickener and stabilizer in a wide variety of products, such as meats, dairy products and shelf-stable beverages. That means CPG researchers will be tasked with reformulating the majority of their certified-organic milk products, ice cream novelties, drink mixes, infant formulas, syrups and deli meats.2 To deal with this critical crunch in time and resources, CPG companies need modern software that can help improve research efficiency, minimizing the hassle of reformulating organic products.
Examining the Physical Properties of New Formulations with In Silico Simulations
Carrageenan is essential to the texture, thickness and stability of many beverage formulations, keeping them from separating or gelling when they are stored for long periods on the warehouse or grocery store shelf. It also helps keep frozen dairy treats thick and creamy and preserves the structure of deli meat so that it doesn’t fall apart when handled or sliced. Replacing carrageenan with alternatives like gellan gum, locust bean gum and xanthan gum is possible, but it isn’t easy. These ingredients are often used in varying combinations, and finding the optimal ratio for each individual product can be time-consuming and expensive.
One way to streamline the testing process is to run computer simulations on potential formulations before bringing them to the bench. Using modeling software, it is possible to get an idea of the general physical properties of the product before sourcing the necessary ingredients and mixing up a test batch. Computer modeling also enables scientists to examine the effects of a slight tweak in ingredient ratios without having to produce an entirely new batch. Especially for companies that are working to reformulate a large number of organic products, in silico testing can significantly cut costs and reduce the overall amount of time that must be dedicated to carrageenan replacement.
Minimizing Unnecessary Physical Tests
Another way to limit the number of unnecessary tests and improve research efficiency when reformulating a whole suite of organic products is to improve data management and sharing. Here are a few key ways that software can help make sure that time and money is only being spent on critical research efforts:
- Enabling access to previous data
Often, data collected when reformulating one product can be applied directly to the reformulation of another. For instance, the combination of carrageenan replacement ingredients needed to preserve the texture and stability of a dairy milk product could be used as a starting point for a soy- or almond-based beverage. Thanks to the electronic information storage capabilities of modern software, it’s easy to access results from previous experiments, so researchers can easily locate and reuse relevant data.
- Facilitating collaboration between labs
At large companies, reformulation efforts may be going on in multiple labs simultaneously, which can result in unnecessary test duplication, especially if the labs are in different research facilities. By providing a platform for seamless information transfer across different locations, it is possible to make sure that researchers in different places aren’t wasting time and money on the same tests. Instead, they can share their findings and collaborate on the creation of new formulations that don’t contain carrageenan.
- Automating data collection
Even the most meticulous formulations testing efforts are prone to manual error, requiring tests to be repeated. One of the best ways to minimize this risk is to automate standard testing tasks whenever possible. Not only does this ensure the quality of the results, but it also frees researchers to focus on generating innovative ideas for new organic formulations, rather than running and re-running basic experiments.
Faced with the impending ban on carrageenan in organic foods and beverages, which is expected to be finalized within the year,3 it is essential for companies to get started on reformulating their products and speed up the research process as soon as possible. Moderns software can improve both the efficiency and quality of research, ensuring that scientists can find ways to replace carrageenan in organic products before they get pulled from store shelves or lose their organic certification status.
BIOVIA Formulations is an advanced software solution that supports computer simulations on consumer goods, as well as efficient data collection, storage and sharing. For companies looking to reformulate their products, the capabilities of this technology can reduce the costs associated with complying with new regulatory standards, including the ban on carrageenan in certified organic foods. Contact us today for more information about how this and our other products can support food and beverage research efforts at your company.
- “Carrageenan Backlash: Food Firms Are Ousting a Popular Additive,” December 12, 2016, http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/12/12/504558025/carrageenan-backlash-why-food-firms-are-ousting-a-popular-additive ↩
- “Board nixes use of carrageenan in organic food production,” November 18, 2016, http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2016/11/board-nixes-use-of-carrageenan-in-organic-food-production/#.WHMHIlUrLIU ↩
- “Decision: Carrageenan Banned in Organic Foods,” November 18, 2016, http://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/news/decision-carrageenan-banned-in-organic-foods/ ↩